“The world will little note, nor long remember , what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
Of course, we all remember President Abraham Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg Address, but with this humble phrase, President Lincoln reinforced that action means more than rhetoric.
Here at Gettysburg we understand that actions matter. In our strategic plan, we lift up the theme of Impact—our commitment to preparing students for lives of purpose by enhancing opportunities for experiential learning that will advance their intellectual development, their sense of social responsibility, and their ability to pursue meaningful change.
Our nationally recognized Center for Public Service (CPS) teaches students to think critically and act compassionately through community-based learning and research. This spring, our CPS students led and participated in immersion projects around the world, including in Puerto Rico, where they offered their service to communities near the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve in Fajardo and learned about hurricane recovery, trade policies, the debt crisis, and Puerto Rican culture.
Undergraduate research and creative activity under the direction of a faculty member has become an integral part of our academic experience. In 2017, 278 students presented 186 research projects at our annual Celebration event, and 80 students carried out summer research projects. Capstone projects are required of every major, and nearly 70 first-year students presented their research and creative activity at this year’s CAFÉ Symposium.
While hands-on research remains critical for student growth, research shows that mentorship offers tremendous benefits as well. The vast majority of our students report finding one or more mentors at Gettysburg, and our Task Force on Mentoring has recommended that we expand this mentoring network to include faculty, peers, staff, alumni, and parents.
The Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC) has begun that approach by pairing Gettysburg students with leadership coaches, many of whom are members of our administrative and support staff. These coaches help our students develop new leadership skills through reflection on their campus activities. This year, nearly 150 students will complete the program to earn a Leadership Certificate.
In addition, our Center for Career Development has enhanced their efforts to help students connect with alumni and parents through job shadowing, panel presentations, externships, and internships—and, of course, valuable mentoring relationships.
I should also note that over the last couple of years, I have been pleased to see a resurgence of student activism on campus focused on topics ranging from the campus climate for students of color to residential facilities issues to freedom of expression to support for our LGBTQA community. In each situation, students are not just raising the issue; rather they are working constructively to generate positive solutions.
In short, Gettysburg strives to provide an exceptional education in the liberal arts and sciences, paired with high-impact experiential activities and excellent mentoring—all of which provide our students with outstanding preparation for effective and engaged civic, professional, and personal lives. Gettysburg students understand that actions make a difference. And when they graduate, there is no doubt in my mind that they will be well-prepared to address the “unfinished work” still before us.
Janet Morgan Riggs ’77